Ben Johnson’s coach insisted under stiff cross examination today that the sprinter knew he was using banned steroids.
“He was acutely aware of what he was taking,” Charlie Francis said in response to questioning by Johnson’s lawyer, Edward Futerman, in his seventh day of testimony in a Canadian inquiry into drugs and sports.
Futerman tried repeatedly to get Francis to say that Johnson and other athletes were not aware that the substances they consumed for most of the decade were banned by international sporting rules.
But Francis responded, “I told them they were taking banned substances.”
He said the main concern of Johnson and the others was how long it took for the drugs to clear their systems--so they would pass urine tests such as the one Johnson flunked at the Seoul Olympics.
‘They Were Making Choices’
The coach disputed the lawyer’s picture of Francis as an adult who betrayed the trust of naive children.
“The athletes themselves were aware participants--and they were making choices,” Francis said. “They were free to take them (steroids) or not take them.”
Johnson’s only comment since being stripped of his Olympic gold medal for a positive steroid test was a brief statement last fall that he never knowingly used illegal drugs to enhance his performance.
Johnson’s 9.79-second, 100-meter dash Sept. 24 broke his own record of 9.83 records set in 1987 but was disallowed after the positive test for the steroid stanozolol forced him to return the gold medal.